I am writing to you with one simple request and one hope. That you would take a few moments to read my story and that you would bear witness to my experience based on what you’ve seen and experienced of the work of the Holy Spirit and the love of the Father and His Son in your own life. Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, we are inextricably linked even though we often get caught up in our own lives (myself included) and forget that we are part of his Great Cloud of Witnesses if we are indeed his children.
Over the past four years, I have been trying to live and follow God and I have much to be thankful for. But when I reflect on my own journey these past few years I must admit that it has been a struggle and that there have been many trials and dark days. During this period, my family moved three times, one of my sisters suddenly lost her healthy 3-year-old son of unknown causes, my other sister had her first child and got divorced the same year, my husband lost his job then became a stay-at-home dad for two years, I had three jobs (two full-time and one part-time), and we lost our daughter, Emma Rose, at 18 weeks gestation due to miscarriage. There have been many wonderful things that have happened as well; but I have found it to be true that our pain is what Jesus is most drawn to and these are often the times when we know him most intimately, even if he seems to be silent. We all go through these wilderness periods, grief and struggle are part of life, and I have no doubt that most of you have endured much more than I have. And yet, in all these circumstances I have been so focused on surviving, providing for my family, nurturing my children, coping with loss, making sure we’re okay…that the life and mission I once knew in Fairfield and Chicago seems like a distant memory. It has caused me to wrestle with God over what it means to be faithful.
To be sure, it is nearly impossible to see and answer the call of the lost and oppressed when you are under spiritual attack. As a young woman I was passionate about serving Jesus, but I had yet to know the joys and burdens of having my own family, being a wife and mother, having a mortgage and providing for my family, and mounting responsibilities. But with life experience comes clarity. I know in my heart what truly matters in this life and for that I am grateful!
You all have played an integral part in the Lord’s personal revelation to me of what it means to follow him. The central message of the Gospel is both His saving mercy for sinners and His call “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” It is the prophetic call to heed the cries of the poor and oppressed, to be the voice crying out in the wilderness “Prepare the way for the Lord!” The same God who wept over Jerusalem, weeps over our world and our nation, weeps over our impoverished and isolated inner cities and rural trailer parks. In our nation of wealth and prosperity, oppression, racism, sexism, hate and terrorism of all kinds are alive and threaten to burn the bridges of hope and peace built by Dr. King and others who have gone before us. Don’t misunderstand me. We live in a world of perpetual spiritual darkness and it is hell-bent on overtaking us, but by the power of the Holy Spirit we live by faith and not by sight. Jesus said that if we are His than we are not of this world, but children of the kingdom of heaven. We are sojourners, passing through this brief life but also given the bright torch of His perfect and eternal love to pass on to whomever we meet along the way. Each of you carries this light and I urge you to let it burn brightly in the places where you go. We may not all live and worship together today, but someday we will if we persevere with all the saints to the last day.
I am convinced of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it forward and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). And I ask that you would pray this prayer for me and my family as well. Let us not forget that we got a glimpse of heaven, however imperfect we are, because we dwelt together as a Christ Church and came together in His name. I will never forget. And this spurs me onward to know that although my city, my neighborhood, my church, my job, my family, and my life look different now that I am still called to show mercy, do justice, and walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8). There are needs all around me if I have eyes to see and there are shouts for justice and cries for mercy if I have ears to hear. Let us not be lulled to spiritual slumber by our fears, our people-pleasing, our desire to be recognized and accepted, and become dull of hearing because we are paralyzed by self-pity or obsessed with the daily demands of our own needs and wants. I am convicted by the words of Dr. King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” And the famous words of Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Last but not least, let us “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Let’s remind one another of the true source of our hope and “stir up one another on to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Make no mistake. This open display of unity in the body of Christ and more powerful and more subversive and revolutionary than political affiliation, pompous religiosity, social media rants, or protest marches. The Christian life is mysteriously simple but has the power to raise the dead to life.
I will leave you with this.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2